This is a truly sad day for hu­man rights

ASY­LUM seek­ers in Glas­gow are now un­der threat of be­ing thrown onto the streets af­ter a land­mark le­gal ap­peal ruled in favour of a home of­fice con­trac­tor.

The Court of Ses­sion has backed a de­ci­sion to al­low asy­lum hous­ing provider Serco to carry out lockchange evic­tions with­out a le­gal chal­lenge.

The rul­ing ef­fec­tively means that around 150 refugees in the city are now at risk of be­ing made street home­less in the cold of win­ter, set­ting a prece­dent for hun­dreds more.

The ap­peal, brought for­ward by so­lic­i­tor Mike Dailly of Go­van Law Cen­tre, was heard in Septem­ber af­ter a rul­ing ear­lier this year on the le­gal­ity of the prac­tice. Mr Dailly, who rep­re­sents Shakar Ali, in whose name the case was brought, has said the re­al­ity of peo­ple be­ing made street home­less by a Home Of­fice con­trac­tor is ‘in­hu­mane’.

He added: “I think this is a truly sad day for hu­man rights law in Scot­land. The ef­fect of to­day’s rul­ing is that the UK Gov­ern­ment can out­source its statu­tory and in­ter­na­tional le­gal obli­ga­tions as a pri­vate company.

“Scot­land’s high­est civil court has ruled that Scot­land’s asy­lum seek­ers can be evicted with­out the need to go to court.

“How does that fit with a mod­ern, pro­gres­sive, out­ward-look­ing, 21st cen­tury Scot­land? What does it say to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity?

“What is go­ing to hap­pen to sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in Glas­gow? We can’t, ap­proach­ing win­ter, have 300-plus peo­ple turfed out onto the streets, it is just in­hu­mane.”

Char­i­ties and cam­paign­ers sup­port­ing at-risk asy­lum seek­ers in Glas­gow have con­demned the de­ci­sion, claim­ing it cre­ates a sys­tem of ‘hous­ing apartheid’.

Robina Qureshi, of Pos­i­tive Ac­tion in Hous­ing, said: “What it has done is to legally in­sti­tute a form of hous­ing apartheid in Glas­gow, where one side of our com­mu­nity have their hous­ing and hu­man rights up­held, yet another very vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­nity can be dragged from their homes at any time and turfed out into the streets.

“Serco and other asy­lum land­lords now have carte blanche and the free­dom to do this.

“We had hoped that a pos­i­tive de­ci­sion would give in­spi­ra­tion to other cam­paigns across the UK. But the fight does not stop here. We are ready for it.”

Sabir Zazai, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Scot­tish Refugee Coun­cil, added: “This galling ver­dict leaves hun­dreds of men and women in Glas­gow at risk of lock-change evic­tions and im­me­di­ate street home­less­ness.

“Peo­ple are very anx­ious and very stressed. Peo­ple have no options. On top of this, there is al­ready a home­less­ness cri­sis in Glas­gow that this de­ci­sion will only con­trib­ute to.”

In July 2018, Serco an­nounced it would seek to re­move asy­lum seek­ers from their homes us­ing lock-changes, with around 300 peo­ple af­fected.

While many have now pro­gressed their le­gal cases, and Serco have lost the con­tract to pro­vide such hous­ing, around 150 peo­ple re­main un­der their care and at risk.

Serco’s Ju­lia Rogers said: “We have lis­tened to the pub­lic con­cerns that the process to take back the prop­er­ties they were liv­ing in might be un­fair or il­le­gal, but we now have clear judge­ments from Scot­land’s high­est court that our ap­proach is com­pletely proper and within the law.

“We will be work­ing with the au­thor­i­ties and the Sher­iffs Court in Glas­gow to en­sure an orderly sen­si­tive ap­pli­ca­tion of the law. Serco would not seek to re­move more than 20 peo­ple in any one week from their prop­er­ties.”

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